As a rule of thumb — I’ve never found there to be ONE correct response to pain, loss, or anything for that matter.
When my hamster died in 4th grade, my instinct was laughter. I knew I had to tell my baby sister that Dale died, but I couldn’t stop giggling.
When my Grandfather passed, I had no reaction whatsoever. I became frustrated at my lack of emotion — how could I be feeling nothing? It was only a week later, at 3P in the afternoon, that it hit me that Sabba was gone.
Handling hardship is a process that continues to evolve as I evolve — through my teens, twenties, and eventually into my 30s. (Which will be a hardship all its own, future blog coming: “How to handle turning 30”!)
Local time: Jerusalem. 10AM.
The morning after the tragic news hit Israel that the bodies of three young boys, who were kidnapped several weeks ago, were found in Hebron.
How does one “process” loss? Does the process differ for those who are not the immediate family of the deceased?
10 seconds of shock and 10 minutes of tears later, I began to wonder “what’s the message? what’s the purpose?”
And so I realized that while there is no ONE response to hardship, my process in feeling pain during this time looks a little something like:
1. Allow myself to feel without self-judgement | In the past, I felt shame at my lack of emotion, or embarrassment at my over-emotion. Yesterday, I simply allowed myself to feel whatever it was — shock, pain, fear, love, frustration, certainty, so on.
Allowing ourselves to feel, to truly connect to our own core, is so crucial in our 20s.
In a time of immense external influence, I think it’s extremely important to take a moment to connect to one’s self. To sit quietly, and mindfully ask “what am I feeling?” with zero judgement.
Some people process with tears, while others with denial. There is no right or wrong, so long as there is awareness.
2. Connect | Personally, the ability to connect with others, with my community, and with the bigger picture is a crucial part to my own handling of hardship. At some point after the self-reflection phase, I find it important to connect.
Now, you may say — ”I hate to be hugged when I grieve. I actually dislike being bothered.” Hey, I get it. I tend to seek refuge in the comfort of my bedroom, and prefer quiet time, too. So for the lone-griever, I still suggest connection to humanity, to the whole.
It’s always uplifting to remember that we are all connected, and that there is always a bigger picture outside of our single point in time. Just like a puzzle is made up of hundreds or thousands of individual unique pieces, and without each piece there is not a complete image.
Giving myself some time to connect to the love of mother earth, to the love of the trees, to the pulse of humanity (and perhaps then accept a hug from a friend, a neighbor, or a family member) — this is my idea of connection.
3. Meaning | Not only because I’m a spiritual human, but because I believe we are all innately spiritual beings — I am a big proponent of finding meaning and purpose in the events that happen in our life.
The young boys — Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, were innocent souls who left their loved ones and this world too soon. But if we allow ourselves to simultaneously glean meaning from the incident, to see that they united thousands and thousands of families and strangers in prayer, unity, and purpose, then the hardship elevates in meaning.
We all struggle with hardship, from infancy to old age. (Just so happens in your 20s most individuals work somewhat harder at cementing boundaries and ideologies — so it’s slightly turbulent and/or nauseating).
Yet, if we are able to tap into a unity and connection, then we seize the opportunity to not only elevate our own selves, but humanity as a whole. (It starts with us! *Source: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”- Ghandi, or “I’m starting with the man in the mirror” – Michael Jackson).
I’ve also noticed that often the toughest moments are the greatest opportunities. Opportunities to appreciate more, to desire more, to love more.
Just as a single candle can light up a dark room, we can similarly turn the darkness of our hardships into an opportunity to reveal light. (*Source: “The circumstances we find ourselves in aren’t a punishment; they’re tools to help us elevate to another level of consciousness” – Karen Berg.)
4. Keep on Keeping On | Hardships give us an opportunity to pause, emote, reflect, and find deeper meaning in our lives. At the same time, they provide a workout of sorts — a bench press for the internal perseverance muscle.
While I’m no grief counselor, and the aforementioned steps are to be traversed by each individual in their own space and time. I believe it’s important to keep living— to keep learning, growing, and forging wholesome connections.
Each day I ask myself: “how can I be better than I was yesterday?” and “how can I help another human being to do the same?” I believe that every day is an opportunity to work on our ability to move out of the pettiness of our teens and into the maturity, self-love, and love for all (which seems to be the process of life on earth).
Life is itself a great playground.
With the slippery slide, comes the soft grass. With the challenging monkey bars, comes the carefree swing. And with the lunch-money bullies come great friends. The key is to keep playing, with your head held high.
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them”
– Mother Theresa
**With loving memory of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali. And with heartfelt wishes for a uniting love and peace for the whole world.**